Do I owe anything?

…says a ”Smålänning”, and a ”Västgöte” says ”Does it cost anything?” These expressions reflect the thrift, or perhaps stinginess of people from Småland and Västergötland, two Swedish provinces. The purpose of it is to pay as little as possible, or preferably nothing at all, for goods and services. When it concerns the Congolese, does their situation concern us? Do we have any obligations towards them? Could it be that we owe them something?

From the start of the Matadi Support Group (MSG) in 2007, I have been studying the history of Congo. At the end of the 15th century, the Portuguese came to Congo. They travelled up the Congo river into the country and began buying and/or kidnapping people to sell as slaves. The slaves were freighted to Brazil, Middle and North America. The slave trade continued for four centuries, until the end of the 19th century. Entire areas in Congo were emptied of people. Millions of Africans were taken to the other side of the globe and forced into slavery.

In the 1880´s Congo Kinshasa became a Belgian colony and the private property of king Leopold II. Ivory was one of the commodities that were carried to Europe. An obligation to deliver ivory was imposed on the African villages. Various inventions and the industrialization of Europe caused a demand of rubber, and rubber trees grew in Congo. The African villages had to deliver rubber too. The Belgians and other Europeans, including Swedish mercenaries treated the Congolese atrociously. If the villages refused to deliver their share of ivory and rubber, the Europeans cut of the Congoleses´ hands, took women and children as hostages, or just shot them to show who was in command of their life and death.

The pillaging of Congo smashed the structure of society into pieces. The villages, communities and kingdoms no longer functioned like before. In the 20th century, the Westen World and Asia had discovered the abundance of minerals and metals in Congo. One of the largest copper deposits in the world and one of the few deposits of coltan in the world are located in Congo. Coltan is a mineral which is used to make mobile phones. Parts of your mobile phone and computer probably originate from Congo.

Congo is rich in natural resources, but the people are poor. Why don´t the Congolese get a part of the fortunes of their country? Surely, the poverty has many causes, but I would like to point out one. The foreign exploiters have abused their superior lead, and secured the rights to extract the resources without paying a fair price to the Congolese. No doubt, the exploitation of Congo continues. That´s why you and I have a responsibility to fight the poverty of the Congolese. We must ask ourselves: Is our wealth based on the poverty of others?